Horrific officiating aside, the Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets series was very entertaining and the Raptors have plenty to take from it despite the loss. This young group of guys have so much to learn and accomplish and their fans are ready to do it with them. The city of Toronto is finally approaching the milestone it has been waiting for with the city being not just a hockey city, but a basketball one, too.
Here are the 5 things the Raptors can take away from round one:
1. National Support
I don’t think anyone could have predicted the hype, passion and outcome that the city of Toronto gave this Raptors team. Fans waited six years to see the team in playoffs and even that wasn’t preparation enough for the thousands amoung thousands of fans who lined up outside in Maple Leaf Square, rain or shine, home or away, hours before the games. The reception was surreal throughout the whole series. And although the Raptors have accredited their fans years prior, they now know the extent to which the support lies.
Opponent Paul Pierce was gushing about the Raptors fan base: “…One of the greatest environments I’ve ever been in. As far as the noise, enthusiasm – this is as tough as it’s gonna get.”
Even the most hated Nets player had nice things to say. Kevin Garnett stated, “…This has got to be one of the best places and best atmospheres I’ve played in in a long time.” He continued with: “D-Will was shooting free throws and our ears were ringing. Big shout out to the Toronto Raptors and their fans and their city.”
2. Playoff Experience
Kyle Lowry is the only starter with relevant and extended playoff experience prior to this series. The Raptors have a young core and this experience is only going to help them grow in years to come. This experience will help coach these players in understanding the difference between a regular season game and a playoff game, recognizing how to cope with pressure and all the craziness of the playoff encounter. And with experience comes the benefit-of-the-doubt calls, less turnovers and eventually a winning series. This team can only go up from here.
3. Effectiveness of Team Work
This band of brothers has become even closer throughout this experience together. The every player of different caliber united and played as a team and only as a team; they always have. All season these guys have worked together as a unit and I think this playoff series showed them that this has paid off in many ways. When Kyle Lowry missed the opportunity to get a shot off in the final seconds of Game 7, Demar DeRozan and the rest of the Raptors squad instantly surrounded him giving him encouragement and reassurance that no one would have had it any other way (other than him making the shot… obviously). The trust that they have in each other just became more evident within this series.
4. Ambassador Drake
Not much to say here. The Global Ambassador for the team clearly did his job. He was a face throughout the whole series. He represented at home and away games, spent time outside in Maple Leaf Square to greet fans, called Jay-Z out and grew people’s excitement for the series. As much as some people may not be the biggest Drake supporters, fans and players must appreciate how his involvement is a very positive thing for the city and the team.
5. Utilization of Profanity
It is okay! Well, it is okay despite the fact that a $25,000 fine will be allotted. The Toronto Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri’s now famous F-bomb directed at Brooklyn in the game one rally outside the Air Canada Centre was beyond amazing. This chant was the centre of headlines, social media posts and t-shirts around the country. Ujiri’s profanity did not only get the support of the fans, but the players agreed with the saying, as well. Amir Johnson was quoted in saying, “We have his back. I’m with him 100%. So if he said eff ‘em, I say eff ‘em.”
Raptors fans have a lot to look forward to in these upcoming years, as do the players. The culture of basketball in this city is astounding. Canadian teams and players are moving up in the basketball world. At the end of the day, the Raptors have fans to thank, experience to gain and a motto to remember.